It’s hard to argue with Mike Axisa’s conclusion in this morning’s post: In terms of high-end talent, the Yankees minor league system really is, “Montero and everyone else.”
That’s not to say there isn’t high-end talent thoughout the system, it just means that much of that talent comes with considerable risk. Some of that risk is due to injuries (Dellin Betances, Chris Garcia, Brad Suttle, Alan Horne, Andrew Brackman) and some of it is because of youth (Manny Banuelos, Jose Ramirez, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Kelvin DeLeon). But the Yankees can afford that risk.
Austin Romine, Zach McAllister and Jeremy Bleich give the Yankees quality in the upper levels, and the lower levels are full of potential that the Yankees can afford to treat with patience. The major league roster has very few holes, and so the slow development of a young shortstop like Carmen Angelini or an injury to a young pitcher like Jairo Heredia leaves no cause for immediate panic.
Although much of the system’s raw talent is in the lower levels, the Triple-A and Double-A rosters will be stocked with potential major league role players. Mike listed three — Kevin Russo, Romulo Sanchez and Reegie Corona — who could very well play a role this season. I’ll add three more names, each of which comes with a little more risk and uncertainty.
Now that Austin Jackson has been traded, Curtis is easily the Yankees’ top upper-level outfield prospect. There is nothing particularly impressive about his career numbers, but he does a lot of things well, and just before the Rule 5 draft, an opposing scout told me he considered Curtis exactly the kind of player who can come up to fill a part-time role in the big leagues. Given their lack of outfield depth, the Yankees might need exactly that. If Curtis continues the adjustments he made in the Arizona Fall League — he led the league in slugging percentage — he could very easily push for a mid-season call-up.
The last player remaining from the Gary Sheffield trade, Whelan has a big fastball and a big splitfinger, but he also has big walk totals. Late last season, though, Whelan seemed to be turning a corner. He had 13 walks in 12.2 Triple-A innings, but seven of those walks came in a bad two-game stretch. He closed the regular season with four walks and 17 strikeouts through nine innings. He was the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer in the playoffs. There’s a lot to like about his arm if he can add a little command.
In recent years, the Yankees have done a nice job finding talent in obscure places. They pulled Edwar Ramirez out of independent ball and found Alfredo Aceves playing in Mexico. That’s the same place they found the power-hitting Vazquez. Through his final four seasons in Mexico, Vazquez never had a slugging percentage lower than .605, and he twice had a slugging percentage above .730. Last year in Double-A, he hit .329 with 13 home runs in 57 games. He hit 11 more home runs in 32 games of winter ball. Vazquez is a complete wild card in the Yankees system, but the power seems legitimate. He could be the next surprise to put himself on the radar.